Review Roundup: THE PERFORMERS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
THE PERFORMERS, David West Read's new comedy, began preview performances on October 23 and opens tonight, November 14th, at the Longacre Theatre (220 W. 48 St.) in New York City.
THE PERFORMERS is a romantic comedy set on the night of the Adult Film Awards. Produced by Robyn Goodman, Scott M. Delman and Amanda Lipitz and directed by Evan Cabnet, The Performers stars Cheyenne Jackson, Ari Graynor, Daniel Breaker and Jenni Barber, and also stars Alicia Silverstone and Henry Winkler.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "The Performers" offers proof positive that it's possible to talk real dirty and still be the squarest show in town. Even in a season featuring two works by a king of Anglo-Saxon expletives like David Mamet, this comedy by David West Read may well clock the most obscenities per minute of any play on Broadway. Nonetheless Mr. Read's perky account of innocents in porn land, centered on a film awards presentation in Las Vegas, feels like a throwback to the more discreetly risqué entertainments of 40 and 50 years ago. Though its author is only 29, "The Performers" is like an early Neil Simon farcewith an X-rated vocabulary, or a blue-tongued episode of the smirky but sentimental TV series "Love American Style."…Mandrew's wife and sometime co-star, Peeps...is played by Ari Graynor, who turns out to be MR. Jackson's ideal comic match. In endowing cartoon characters, whose punch lines are visible long before they land, with something like sincerity and spontaneity, these two work wonders. Unfortunately, with "The Performers," wonders soon cease.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Most of the jokes from the new Broadway comedy "The Performers" cannot appear in a family newspaper. The world of adult films doesn't lend itself to cleanliness…The funny thing is that the show has a pure heart and a traditional feel-good message despite the waving of adult toys, simulated sex acts and language that would trigger a seizure in a network censor. Read has somehow found sweetness in porn…Director Evan Cabnet has aimed at, and struck, the tender heart in a script that could easily be performed with more darkness or more cartoony. The great cast - especially a squeaky, muddle-headed Graynor and zesty Winkler - keeps the show giggling.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: For all the under-served talent in Broadway's The Performers (* *½ out of four), the production boasts one indisputable stroke of casting genius. In David West Read's new play, which opened Wednesday at the Longacre Theatre, Henry Winkler appears as Chuck Wood, an aging porn star given to crowing about his, um, sizable credentials. Thus the actor who, as Fonzie on the '70s TV smash Happy Days, defined effortless cool for a generation of pre-adolescents turns up as a has-been stud trying way too hard to sustain his youthful glory.'
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: There are huge boobs in the porn-themed play "The Performers," which opened Wednesday at the Longacre. That's not only a reference to one character's Double-G fake jugs, but to all the dimwits dreamed up by playwright David West Read. Everyone in the limp comedy hails from the planet Stupid. Nothing wrong with that, but it takes real smarts to make dumb people funny. A string of easy puns and double entendres and faux XX-film titles like "Spontaneass" aren't enough to elevate this beyond a raunchy extended skit. Don't read that as prudishness. It's disappointment that in his Broadway debut, Read ("The Dream of the Burning Boy") comes up with so few surprises.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The money shot of this production is an incandescent comic turn by Ari Graynor, her inventive line readings matched by the daffy expressivity of her face and body. As for David West Read's play, it's a so-so Broadway boulevard comedy with a generous dose of raunch. But while the material is as skimpy as Mandrew's suede microshorts, the cast works on this fluff like expert fluffers…The playwright has concocted himself a fertile setup for comedy but fails to do anything creative with it...Julian Fleisher's jazzy scene-change music underscores that, beneath all its licentiousness, this is at heart an old-fashioned Broadway comedy. Cabnet can't entirely dodge the lags in such featherweight material, but the appealing cast should satisfy undemanding audiences looking for light entertainment with a touch of the risqué.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: David West Read seems to think that setting his Broadway debut, "The Performers," in the world of porn is hilarious in and of itself. So the show never bothers with anything besides raunchy wisecracks that get less and less funny as the evening wears on. Thank God the production features a spot-on cast that includes Henry Winkler, Cheyenne Jackson and Alicia Silverstone.
Scott Brown, NY Magazine: Truth be told, nothing feels entirely necessary in The Performers. Why is Mandrew named Mandrew? Straight male porn stars don't have names like "Mandrew." (Jackson has a prime physique more in line with the requirements of gay porn, but Read, beyond one intriguing little feint near the top of the show, doesn't go There, or anywhere near There.) So Mandrew is Mandrew because and only because "Mandrew" is funny to say - at least, the first sixteen times. And The Performers is acceptably funny, too, if you disconnect most of your brain, including the part connected to your genitals. Believe me, you won't need 'em: Light disdain and affectionate superiority toward cartoon sex dolls with crotches Barbie-smooth is all that's required of you. Sex comedy - even in gelded, rom-com form - probably ought to pump something carnal out of the subconscious. Read, it seems, is too busy drilling for corn.
Linda Winer, Newsday: There must be a way to say this without sounding prim. "The Performers," which finds a game but miscast Henry Winkler and a sweet Alicia Silverstone in Vegas at the Adult Film Awards, is not shocking because of the nonstop use of playground dirty words or because of its unblinking attitude toward its tired subject matter.
Matt Windman, AM New York: While "The Performers" is hardly an ambitious play and the characters tend to be either rigidly stupid or uptight, it is undoubtedly a crowd-pleasing show, combining raunchy humor with a simple setup and conservative emphasis on monogamy. As skillfully directed by Evan Cabnet, the likable and very attractive cast indulges in all the silliness without going too overboard. Of course, the real standouts are Graynor and Jackson for going to such ridiculous, childish and idiotic extremes. Winkler, whose character is three decades older than everyone else, appears to be having a good time. Silverstone, looking rather like a sad puppy, is effectively cute and pairs nicely with Breaker.
Adam Feldman, TimeOutNY: The Performers squeezes quite a few dirty laughs from crude, XXX double entendres-and Henry Winkler plays an aging cocksman, which is great news for anyone who wants to hear Henry Winkler talk about his dong a lot. But the raunch turns out to be mere dressing for a soggy rom-com salad...
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: Ever run into an Old Acquaintance who's way down on his luck? After you realize there's nothing you can do to help, you feel awkward and embarrassed, and just want to slink away. I had a similar emotion at "The Performers," which opened Wednesday night at the Longacre Theatre. The play, which is beyond wretched, stars Alicia Silverstone ("Clueless") and Henry Winkler ("Happy Days"), two actors who've earned our affection over the years. To see them slogging through a scuzzy "comedy" about moronic porn actors, amid a snickering procession of crude sex jokes, was distressing. Is work that hard to find?
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "The Performers," David West Read's romantic comedy about a lovers' showdown at an Adult Film Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, is dopey fun. That's not because the sensibility is raunchy, but because the sentiments are so corny. There's not much to cheer in the thin plot about married porn stars who teach a prudish couple a thing or two about true love and great sex; the big pleasure comes from watching true comic artists spin this trite material into gold.
Tanner Stransky, Entertainment Weekly: The Performers is everything the masses want on Broadway: It's short (just 90 minutes), sexy (a send-up of the porn industry), and ruled by a ditzy scene-stealer (The Sitter's Ari Graynor). Oh, and it also stars Alicia Silverstone, Henry Winkler, and Cheyenne Jackson, whose ripped body is blessedly on display for the show's first 10 minutes. David West Read's laugh-a-minute script is light, but it fires on all cylinders. A–
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: Like sex itself, David West Read's The Performers--about two couples colliding in the adult entertainment arena--is kind of guiltily enjoyable while it lasts, though by the end, you think, "Did I really need to do that?"...The cast is fine, and Henry Winkler is especially sly and funny as Chuck Wood, the elder statesman of the porn-actor world, who's prone to emissions like "The world was my glory hole!" But despite the chuckles, The Performers tended to remind me of one of the satirical porn titles mentioned in it: I Ate Chinese and Now I'm Hungry Again.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: Evan Cabnet does little but direct traffic as Jenni Barber (Sundown), Daniel Breaker (Lee), Ari Graynor (Peeps), Cheyenne Jackson (Mandrew), Alicia Silverstone (Sara), and Henry Winkler (Chuck) soldier manically on. The only thing they can be blamed for is signing on in the first place.